Three out of five switchboards cannot recognise new numbers

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The Independent Online

Millions of people are facing telephone chaos today as Britain's most complicated number switch continued to confuse and frustrate.

Millions of people are facing telephone chaos today as Britain's most complicated number switch continued to confuse and frustrate.

Those returning to work after the bank holiday are likely to encounter fresh difficulties. The switchboards of three out of five businesses are unable to recognise the new local codes.

The failure means that should someone in centralLondon attempt to make a local call, prefixing the old seven-digit number with a 7, they will hear a recorded message telling them to redial and prefixing the old seven-digit number with a 7.

"The switchboard bug could affect some businesses which use Alternative Network Routing, which allows switchboards to choose between phone companies for local, national and international calls," said a spokesman for the Big Number, the firm set up to handle the code switch by the 40 or so telecommunications companies affected by the changes. "If a firm's switchboard has not been reprogrammed, staff using the new eight-digit local numbers without the new 02 area code will not get through, even though they dialled correctly."

There has also been evidence of other problems. Police in Portsmouth - one of seven areas where the new codes were introduced on Saturday - had to convert numbers passed on to them by emergency operators. Sergeant Derek Hibbard said operators dealing with emergency calls were being given the old numbers by 999 BT operators when callers were transferred to the emergency service. "They just said their computer system hasn't been updated yet," he said.

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